It's been an up and down season for the Raiders so far, with close losses and encouraging wins but Sunday's matchup against the Steelers will go a long way in telling what this team is truly made of.
Coming into the season, Oakland was predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league — even tied with Jacksonville for the best odds of going winless this season.
Thanks to a breakout season from Terrelle Pryor, however, Oakland has been far from the worst team in the league. That said, however, they're equally far from the top of the league as well.
That brings us to Sunday's game against an upstart Steelers team that has won their past two matchups against the Jets and the Ravens — two teams with seven wins between them this season.
"This is a good football team that we’re playing, make no mistake about it," head coach Dennis Allen said. "They understand how to win. They know what the formula is to win in this league and they’ve done a really good job of it the last couple of weeks."
While Pittsburgh's 2-4 record is nothing special, they appear to be a team in the same ballpark as Oakland is — a team towards the bottom of the league that has the potential to cause problems for middle-of-the-pack teams.
The Raiders, on the other hand, have had some impressive performances of their own.
In Week 1 they nearly beat an Indianapolis squad that has become one of the best in the league. They lost a close game against Washington in Week 4 and then were within one score of undefeated Kansas City in the fourth quarter of Week 6.
Combine those performances with a win over the Jaguars and then another over the rival Chargers, and the Raiders haven't been a team opponents could relax against.
Sunday will be a test, however, of what Oakland does when they're not a massive underdog.
In the three weeks that has been the case — against Jacksonville, Washington and San Diego — Oakland has held their own and performed well.
This Pittsburgh team, however, is on a roll and will present a big test for Oakland. How will Pryor respond to a team that regularly boasts one of the best defenses in football? Can Oakland get a win with two weeks to prepare for Pittsburgh? Can Dennis Allen keep the team's momentum going despite all of the injuries?
All of these questions and more will be answered on Sunday.
We'll find out if Oakland is a team destined for a draft pick in the top 5 next spring, of if they're a team that could surprise some folks in the second half of the season by winning (or at least competing) against top flight competition. In the final eight weeks of the season, Oakland will play just one team with a worse record than the Steelers — the New York Giants.
"I think it would be big for us to come off this bye and get a win and start the stretch run of the season and start it off right," Allen said. "We need to get in these games against good teams and find out ways to win."
Oakland doesn't have many more games the experts would consider winnable, but a home game against the 2-4 Steelers coming off a bye week is as good as it will get for Oakland.
Time to make a statement.